On September 2, 2013, at the age of sixty-four, Diana Nyad completed a heroic feat of both endurance and human willpower, when she emerged upon the sands of Key West after swimming 111 miles in fifty-three hours, from Cuba to Florida. Nyad carried three messages with her on that dangerous journey through shark-infested waters, which she relayed to the awaiting crowd upon her arrival:
People around the world cheered her on, inspired by her irrefutable determination to be the first person to conquer the historic crossing without the aid of a shark cage. Her amazing triumph was especially meaningful because it culminated a thirty-five-year journey—inspired by four crushing failures on previous attempts through those same dangerous waters, only to be foiled by injuries and inclement weather conditions. At one point during the journey, she began vomiting because she had so much salt water in her system and was shivering incessantly from the cold. She even sang lullabies to help her relax as she kept repeating her mantra Find a Way, which became the title of the book she wrote to recount the experience. Within the depths of her darkest moments, she clung to the thought: "You don't like it. It's not going well. Find a way."
Endurance is essential for anyone who sets their mind to be successful—whether it is to win a race, start a business, build a great relationship, or achieve any big courageous dream or goal. It reflects both your mental and physical fortitude to withstand something highly challenging and to do something difficult for a long period of time. When you have endurance, you are confident that you can handle the consequences of life decisions and are willing to “find a way” to stick it out. One of the biggest reasons people fail in any great endeavor is because they don’t have the endurance to keep pushing through after they fail. And most of us fail…and fail…and fail again. Success is always to be found on the other side of failure.
You develop endurance every time you withstand the temptation to give up. It is not when you’re at the top of your game that you discover your best self—it is when you’re pressing your way through the darkest moments that your true strength emerges. How do you build endurance? Purposely push yourself each day beyond your comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Start developing qualities now that will train you to succeed when difficult times arise. With endurance, you’ll be able to find a way to survive anything that is asked of you.
Zeal is a powerfully constructive force when combined with knowledge—and devastatingly dangerous when motivated by a misinformed mind. Neither the mind nor zeal will do much good without knowledge. Zeal must be cautious as well as warm—fire is good in a chimney, but it can burn down your house if it spreads to the rafters of your roof. Even the most well-intentioned zeal could prove to be harmful, if it isn’t tempered with knowledge. On the other hand, in the absence of zeal, everything seems to be done with a “ho-hum” or a “have-to” sense of obligation. Opportunity may open the door that leads toward success, but without zeal you won’t step through to take advantage of it. Knowledge can be taught, but it is much more difficult to make someone be passionate about something.
Just to clarify, the type of knowledge we are referring to here is that which is embodied by wisdom—the very name of our species, Homo sapiens, signifies "wise man." People often speak of knowledge and wisdom as though the two are the same, and both have quite a bit in common. The primary difference is that wisdom involves a healthy measure of perspective and the ability to make sound judgments about a matter, while knowledge is simply knowing. Anyone can become knowledgeable by reading, researching, and memorizing facts. Wisdom is knowing how to apply what is learned in a way that is beneficial. When balanced together, zeal and knowledge embodied with wisdom provide an indomitable force for successful living!
Wisdom is only acquired through experience, which also provides us more knowledge to navigate new challenges in life. If you are interested in trying new things and willing to reflect on the process, you have the ability to gain wisdom. Furthermore, by learning everything you can and spending time analyzing your experiences, then putting your knowledge into practice, you can become a wiser person. And with more wisdom, you will be able to avoid making repeated mistakes in the future. Here are some tips for gaining wisdom and knowledge:
Can you recall a time somebody was kind to you? What did that feel like? Kindness is defined as an act of being friendly, generous, and considerate, as well as affectionate, gentle, and caring. Studies have shown that kindness is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in interpersonal relationships. So much so, that many universities are now emphasizing kindness on applications for admission.
People flourish when they are treated with kindness and it becomes even more apparent with age. Showing kindness doesn’t have to cost anything or take much of your time. It can be as simple as a warm smile, a touch, or a word of encouragement. There is a strong relationship between feeling happy and simply being kind―it will be difficult for you to be angry, resentful, or fearful while you are showing kindness towards others. Consequently, when you act with kindness, it not only affects the other person, it elevates your own health and well-being.
Keep your eyes open for opportunities to show acts of kindness to others. Give an encouraging word or a smile, open a door for someone, help carry a heavy load, or any action made for the sake of caring. Other ways to practice kindness could be: celebrating someone you love; telling someone how special she is to you; paying a genuine compliment; giving honest feedback; sending a thank you card or e-mail; helping an elderly neighbor with their yard work; taking a picture of someone and sending it to them; sharing homemade food; or donating clothes and other items that will enrich others’ lives.
Imagine you have a massive metal flywheel, approximately thirty feet in diameter, two feet thick, weighing almost three tons, mounted horizontally on an axle. Your task is to get the flywheel rotating on the axle as fast and for as long as possible. At first you begin to apply great effort to get the flywheel to inch forward very slowly. You keep pushing and grunting, and after hours of perseverance you get the flywheel to rotate one complete turn. You keep pushing as the flywheel begins to move a little faster, and with continued effort it makes a second rotation. You continue to push in a consistent direction. Three turns, then four, five and six—it builds up more and more speed with each turn as momentum continues to build. Nine turns, then ten, and the flywheel moves faster with each turn—twenty, thirty, forty, fifty…a hundred!
At some point, momentum shifts in your favor, heaving the flywheel forward at greater speeds, turn after turn, as the law of inertia helps the heavy weight actually begin to work for you. You’re not pushing any harder, but the flywheel moves faster and faster. Each turn builds upon the work you have already done, compounding your investment of effort. Thousands of times faster, the huge heavy flywheel now moves forward with almost unstoppable momentum. If someone were to ask you, “What was the one big push that caused the flywheel to go so fast?” How would you respond? Was it the first push? The second? The fiftieth? The hundredth? Of course not. It was all of the pushes added together in a cumulative effort applied in a consistent direction. Granted, some of the pushes may have been bigger than others, but each single heave represents only a small fraction of the entire effort expended upon the flywheel. Success won’t happen to you in one fell swoop. There will be no single defining action, solitary lucky break, or gut-wrenching revolution. Instead, success will result from a cumulative process…step by step…action by action…and turn by turn of the flywheel of your life.
In order to build momentum, you must increase the things that move you forward and decrease those that hold you back. In other words, it takes creating good habits while letting go those that don’t serve you. By its nature, momentum requires a lot of upfront push to get the flywheel moving. Here are some tips to help jumpstart it in your life:
Over the past decade, an entire genre of books, documentaries, and movies have sprouted up on the subject of happiness. Additionally, a massive amount of research has been conducted to provide solid evidence that happiness and good health go hand-in-hand together. Scientific studies are continually finding that happiness can boost your immune system, lower heart rate and blood pressure, help combat stress, and increase longevity.
Have you ever known someone who is constantly grumpy and also happens to get sick a lot? It is an unlikely coincidence since research indicates there is a positive relationship between happiness and a strong immune system. Happy people are simply healthier and less susceptible to sickness. They’re also more resilient to the effects of stress and suffer fewer aches and pains. The ultimate health indicator is life expectancy―not simply in terms of length, but quality of living. In the end, happiness adds more life to your years, as well as more years to your life.
It is easy to think of happiness as a destination, but it is actually a way of living. Here are some scientifically proven ways to increase your happiness:
In The Tassajara Bread Book, Zen teacher Edward Espe Brown described a great truth that he learned from his kitchen practice. When Edward first started cooking, he couldn’t get biscuits to come out the way they were supposed to. He would follow a recipe and try variations, but nothing worked. His biscuits just didn’t measure up to the Bisquick and Pillsbury biscuits he made while growing up.
It didn’t seem fair. Those biscuits of his youth were so easy to make. For the Bisquick, all you had to do was add milk in the mix and blob the dough in spoonfuls onto the pan - they didn’t even need to be rolled out. The biscuits from Pillsbury came in a cardboard can. You just popped them open, put the pre-made biscuits on a pan, and baked them. They came out right every time. Now that’s what biscuits were supposed to be like – Bisquick and Pillsbury.
Edward grew frustrated because, to his way of thinking, his biscuits never turned out right, even though the people who ate them would extol their virtues, eating one after another. In his mind, these perfectly good biscuits just weren’t right, until one day Edward had an awakening, a real “ah-hah” experience, about his biscuits. “Not right, compared to what?” he asked himself. All this time he had been trying to make canned biscuits. Then came the revelation of tasting his biscuits without comparing them to some preconceived standard. They were wheaty, flaky, buttery, light, and earthy. They were exquisitely alive - in fact, they were much more satisfying than any memory of canned biscuits.
A moment of liberation comes when you realize that your life is fine just as it is. Only the insidious comparison to a neatly scripted, beautifully packaged product, made it seem insignificant or insufficient. You may have spent years striving to look “perfect,” always calm, directed, energetic, and collected. Trying to produce a Bisquick life – with no dirty bowls, no messy feelings, or hindrances, can be a frustrating experience. Effective leaders possess the wisdom to appreciate and celebrate individuality.
Are you a Bisquick leader? Always trying to fit yourself and others into a neatly packaged plan. Or are you willing to allow people to cook their own biscuits from scratch? Standards are fine. We need them to ensure continuity and quality of performance. But individuals also need a sense of independence without constantly being compared to or expected to perform exactly as others. Rigid standards lead to frustration and loss of creativity. Give yourself and others permission to be unique.
Are you currently in a new leadership position? Expect it to take somewhere between 60 and 90 days to acclimate to your new environment. Be willing to listen and observe without making immediate judgments. Become familiar with day-to-day operations to gain an understanding of the tasks people perform. Identify and make alliances with the key players, the informal leaders who contribute the most to the success of the organization. Find out what your constituents (both internal and external) think. What’s working? What’s not? Include key people in the planning stages of any organizational changes you want to implement. First, get buy-in, then engage the informal leaders as allies to influence others. Don’t try and change too many things too quickly. For major changes, draft a phased plan with plateaus built in to allow people time to rest and catch their breath before making the climb to the next level.
Life doesn’t get easier, we get stronger!
In our recent blogs, Quantum Thinking and Attitude is Everything, we wanted to convey the point of greater sustainability as a leader, as a person that strives for more in life. What is it that makes some people remain calm when faced with tough times, while others fall apart mentally or emotionally? Psychologists call it resilience―the ability to cope with stress in a positive way. Resilient people are able to draw from an inner well of strength and skills to respond to life’s challenges, regardless of what they are, instead of falling into despair. It doesn’t mean they experience less grief or distress than other people. The resilient simply face life’s problems head-on in a way that fosters greater growth, coming out on the other end entirely different than they were before, and often grateful for the experience.
Dealing with suffering and loss is an inevitable part of life that everyone faces at one time or another. Whether it is minor or a catastrophic event, how you respond to an event plays a significant role in the outcome, as well as the long-term psychological effects. Even in the face of challenges that seem utterly unimaginable, choosing to be resilient will strengthen you to not only survive but emerge even stronger than you were before.
The first rule for building resilience is to remain flexible and optimistic regarding the future. People who are resilient develop the habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, isolated, and changeable events. In the face of crisis, developing a strong sense of purpose will also play a huge role in your ability to recover and thrive. Add to that the power of confidence you can overcome challenges―develop an “I can do!” attitude.
In building greater resilience, remember to take care of yourself―get adequate amounts of sleep, eat a nutritious diet, exercise regularly, and engage in mindful meditation to calm both your mind and body during stressful periods. Last but not least, connect with at least one other person with whom you can share your feelings, receive support and positive feedback, and discuss possible solutions to problems.
Expand your perspective:
Quantum thinking signifies the mind’s capacity to shift into a holistic mode, rather than linear style of thinking, to access extraordinary levels of creativity, innovation, and healing. By engaging in this type of thinking, you have the ability to draw upon an incredibly powerful, ever-present force of intelligence―referred to as the Unified Field of Intelligence or Universal Consciousness, by multiple scientists in the field of physics, including Albert Einstein.
What happens when you tap into that unparalleled force of consciousness? You’ll experience profound levels of mental clarity and creativity, in addition to better memory and improved learning abilities. Your intuition will become more acute, plus you’ll be able to connect with others on a deeper level. Quantum thinking also raises the vibrational levels of your life energy, which will result in experiencing better health and self-healing.
Can a regular person tap into Quantum thinking? Of course. It is a scientifically proven principle you can draw upon to merge the power of your subconscious with universal consciousness to tap into your intellectual superpowers. Here are some practices to assist you in achieving Quantum thinking:
Attitude is more important than your level of education, the amount of money you have, or any skills you have attained. It is more important than your personal charm or good looks. You have a choice each day regarding the attitude you embrace for that day. Your greatest freedom lies in the ability to choose your attitude no matter the circumstances.
Someone once inquired from Mother Teresa what the job description was for someone who might want to work alongside her in the grimy streets and alleys of Calcutta. Without hesitation she mentioned two things: the desire to work hard and a joyful attitude. A desire to work hard is rare, but compared to an attitude of genuine joy and gratitude, it is commonplace. Choose today to carry an attitude of joy and gratitude!
Who or what controls your attitude? Other people? Things? External circumstances? Don’t let them. You and you alone have the freedom to choose. Do something each day to stretch and grow your resolve to be optimistic about life. By doing so you will learn to flex and strengthen your attitude muscles. Don’t compare yourself to others, and yet seek out those who model a positive attitude and allow them to rub off on you.
Make a list of the top three “attitude busters” in your life. Ask someone to help you be accountable and commit to make regular attitude adjustments when needed. Find something to be grateful for in each of those areas―in fact, make a deliberate effort to get into the habit of simply saying “thank you” more often. Nothing will change until you do.
In his book The Take Action Effect, successful entrepreneur Scott Voelker, describes what he calls “niching down,” as a process of narrowing down your choices for a meaningful vocation that would elicit passion and produce personal reward. After he graduated from high school, he went to work in his father’s construction business and learned a trade. He wasn’t raised to go to college, instead he was told to get a job. So that's what he did, with the dream of one day owning his dad’s business. But he soon found out that raising kids and working more than 60 hours a week didn’t afford the freedom and flexibility he needed for raising a family.
So, he tried several side gigs, including an awkwardly bungled attempt at selling Amway, which taught him a lot about what he didn’t want to do in sales. He and his wife decided to start a part time photography business, with absolutely no experience except for some bad memories of their daughter’s photo shoots. After learning through reading books, along with much trial and error, they finally got their business rolling, and after 18 months Voelker quit his day job. They found their niche in running a successful portrait studio for a number of years, before branching out to teach online photography classes. Being an entrepreneur at heart, he soon discovered a more rewarding niche in Ecommerce and digital marketing. His mission now is to help others build online businesses that provide stability and the freedom to live life on their own terms.
Have you ever started climbing the ladder of success, only to discover the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall? If you have, don’t be discouraged. Nothing is wasted. Experience is the best teacher—but interestingly, she gives you the test first, before the lesson. You may have spent years going to school, only to land a job you hate. Who knew? Perhaps you like your job, but dislike the people or work environment; or hate your job but love the people or work environment. Know that you’re not the first person this has happened to, nor will you be the last. Lots of incredibly successful people have had multiple bad starts before finding their niche. Keep exploring and don’t give up. Here are some helpful questions to help narrow down your choices:
Your level of personal success will never exceed your level of personal development. What are you doing each day to grow? Here are the Big Five daily rituals you can begin:
What inspires people to want to follow a leader? Why do people shun one leader while passionately following another to the ends of the earth? The answer lies in the character of the individual.
What is character? First let’s clarify what it is not. Character is NOT relative. Often today, when leaders are questioned about their actions, they pass blame or point to others’ infractions... "Yeah, but, but...look at what they did." As if it is okay as long as others are doing it or something worse. Let’s get real. What if your accountant told you that he was relatively honest? Would you trust him to handle your money? Or what if your spouse came home from a business trip and said, "Honey, I was relatively faithful to you while I was gone."? Would that work for you?
Practice Personal Integrity
Heart-centered leaders view character as absolute, no gray areas here. It begins with personal integrity - what we do when we think no one is looking. The best way to maintain integrity is to practice personal accountability. Find two people, whose character you respect and trust, whom you are willing to be completely accountable to. Meet with them regularly to fully disclose the details of your actions and solicit feedback about any blind spots you may have. Give them permission to be totally honest and don’t be defensive when they are. The truth will set you free, but first it may step on your toes. Better to be hurt by the truth than comforted by a lie.